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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Getting Comfortable

Do you sleep on the ground?

Did you used to sleep on the ground? Like, in a tent?

I remember when camping in a tent meant the old, closed-cell foam camping pad. You could feel every rock in your back. When we discovered self-inflating Therm-a-Rests, life changed – we had cushion! A whole inch of cushion! I still remember our first camping trip with baby Sophie; she turned the tent into a bouncy house. We found her in the morning by the door of the tent, having bounced there after Tim and I fell asleep.

Funny, that old Therm-a-Rest just doesn’t bounce anymore. Or rather, I don’t bounce. I thump and rattle and groan.


One friend said it’s not even just the sleeping on the ground that gets her; it’s the getting up.

When I backpack, I sit on the ground. Many years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a fold-up-able chair that basically held my butt on the ground. It felt so extravagant. When we all had little kids, I took it on our first car camping trip with friends. I was a little embarrassed to bring it out around the campfire.

But then, everyone else unloaded real chairs from their cars! At first, it was just chairs. Then the chairs got arms. Then the arms got cup holders. Now the chairs have cushions.

It happened with stoves, too. Camping used to mean fiddling with stoves, relentlessly fiddling with little stoves that held a single pot and that always seemed to clog. The first time someone pulled out a two-burner Coleman stove, I almost flipped. Now we own one. We even put it in a kayak.

Now our friends camp with cots and air mattresses, even RVs. Last weekend, I spotted a car going into their tent site with a giant air mattress on the roof. The guy was riding the back bumper, holding the air mattress on the roof with his hands. She was driving really slowly, but how did they get there?!? I figured they must have gone to the electricity at the RV site to blow up the mattress and were now delivering it to their tent.
My friend Rob once had his well-used camping gear described as “prehistoric.” When I buy mine, it’s usually with the assumption that it will last a lifetime. (I buy a lot of things that way.) It’s my stubborn fight against planned obsolescence – not to mention the emotional attachment to my gear – but this curmudgeon side is now getting in the way of … progress. Yeah, I used to walk to school in the snow, too, but I’m pretty sure dinosaurs were uncomfortable before they went extinct.

When I hiked the Chilkoot Trail last summer, my friend Mary loaned me her blow-up NeoAir Therm-a-Rest. Wow! It was a sleeping transformation! It was thick and cushy and still lightweight; oh, the miracles of technology! But last weekend, Tim and I still pulled out our old, one-inch-thick Therm-a-Rests … and groaned and tossed and turned.

No more! If the world is building better mousetraps, I’m getting with the program. I love camping. I love sleeping in a tent, all contained and cozy. I love breathing air that hasn’t been inside walls. I’m ready to update!

Stodginess lurks in secret places, and it’s so liberating to cast it off.

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